‘Mercosur talks could not have happened at a worse time’

The Mercosur trade talks, which are currently underway, could not have happened at a worse time for the EU agricultural industry, a spokesperson for the Department of Agriculture has said.

Brendan Gleeson, the Assistant Secretary with the Department said that it is difficult to see any advantage for European countries from the proposed trade deal with Mercosur states.

Speaking at the Teagasc Better Beef Conference in Tullamore, Gleeson said there is some momentum behind that trade talks and an offer is expected to be made by the EU in early May.

The timing of it couldn’t be worse, given the difficult market situation in meat and milk in Europe.

Gleeson said that the details of the Mercusor deal have been widely publicised, with the EU expected to import 39,000t of fresh and 39,000t of frozen beef from Mercusor nations.

However, he said that the Department has argued that no tariff-rate offer should be made until the EU has carried out analysis to see how the extra volume of beef would affect the EU market.

“Even the Commission’s own analysis from 2007 shows a significantly negative impact on agriculture, with beef and therefore Ireland most affected.

Gleeson said that the Department also has issues with the size and composition of the proposed tariff-rate quota.

We argued that the absorption capacity of the EU for imports is far less than it was when the Commission’s impact assessment was carried out.

The Assistant Secretary also said it is extraordinary to make an offer before the analysis of the impact has been completed.

“It is also argued that from a negotiating prospective, tariff-rate quotas on sensitive products should be the very last thing on the table, not the first,” he said.

But, he said it should also be remember that these negotiations are conducted by trade departments and not agricultural departments.

“In Ireland we have a strongly coordinated approach, this may not necessarily be the case in all Member States.

“It is also important to remember that this isn’t the first time an offer has been made to Mercosur and an offer is no guarantee of acceptance,” he said.